ask the marshall trimble true west

What did cowboys do after reaching the end of a cattle drive?

Wes Shinn
Saratoga Springs, New York

When the cowboys hit a trail’s end town like Abilene or Dodge City, Kansas, after some two months on the drive, the first thing they did was draw their pay and head for the barber shop to get a bath and shave. That would cost six bits or 75 cents. Next, they shed their duds at the mercantile store and got some new ones. A pair of trousers cost $1 to $1.25. A new pair of long johns might cost $1. A new pair of boots would cost $7 to $15. A pullover shirt might cost $1 and a new hat would set you back about $3 to $5.

old west prostitutes cattle drive cowboys true west magazine
After months on the trail many cowboys hit town in pursuit of new clothes, a bath, a drink and a night with a prostitute (above).
— Courtesy True West Archives —

A steak dinner cost about $1, and drinks at the saloon ran about a bit (12 ½ cents) for a glass of beer and about a quarter for a shot of whiskey. He could try his luck at a game of chance, then head for the red-light district. A short-time love affair with a prostitute cost around $1. There were also dance halls where a cowboy paid around 75 cents to $1 dollar for a dance ticket. Prostitutes and dance hall girls sometimes outnumbered so-called decent women by as much as 25 to l.

That’s pretty much what a cowboy did when he hit the end of the trail.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

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